When we hear Morita Doji (15.1.1953 - 24.4.2018) singing, her voice first catches our souls. Her voice is not ample but high and feeble, and with characteristic portamento. We feel as if she mobilizes all her energy to convey vital message to us. Her message is addressed to the people who experienced frustration in their youth days, in particular during their involvement in the student movement. Their wounded spirit is soothed with her sentimental and lyrical songs. All songs of Morita Doji are elegies for the lost past youth or for a party which is over.
Morita Doji is a singer-songwriter who was active between 1975 and 1983 and released seven albums and four singles. She is not a musician with vast popularity but is adored as an idol by thousands of fanatic fans till now.
To tell the truth, I did not have a chance to hear her singing while she was performing publicly, though I heard some of her songs in the past without knowing that. And when I discovered recently that they belonged to her, I checked her songs on the internet one after another – We can find nowadays all her songs on the net – and could not help shedding tears at every song. If I would have had a chance to listen to her in live, I would have been obsessed by her songs and become a core fan of Morita Doji.
Though I wrote already several articles on the development of Japanese popular songs and believe that I had right not to refer to Morita Doji there, I feel obliged to dedicate a page to her as she is a symbol of our generation and occupies a special, significant place in the history of Japanese popular songs.
It is often said that her songs are gloomy and they share the same dark mood with the songs of other singers around 1980 such as Yamasaki Hako and maybe also Nakajima Miyuki. However, there are large differences between their songs. While Yamasaki Hako wrote songs about her loneliness, strong will to break out of loneliness and desire for love, Nakajima Miyuki, in particular in her first years, described women who suffer from broken love.
Like them Morita Doji sang about sufferings pertinent to youth days. However, different from those singers I referred to above, she did not sing about love between man and woman but sang about the lost friendship and solidarity in the context of the end of the 1960s. She does not hint concrete political agenda, but only touch upon emotional aspects as if the political activities were a minor part of their personal struggle with the complication of their youth.
In the movies of "It was all dream" and "If I die" you can see scenes of student movement in Japan at the end of 1960s.
The clock tower of University of Tokyo was occupied by new left students and attacked by the security police. Dispite the slogan of the students, "Todai" was not dismantled.
In the youth days, we encounter all kinds of difficulties apart from relations to opposite sex and tend to take defiant actions against parents, teachers or elders. The student movement in Japan around 1970, with its peak time in 1968, was certainly to be considered as a continuation and the last peak of the traditional anti-government movements, but it is also true that for the most students involved in the movement it was more of an outburst of their dissatisfaction against the society and the elderly authority in it.
The immediate problem for students was the authoritative management style of universities. In addition to that pollution became a serious issue in the Japanese society as a result of fast growing economy and hundreds of people suffered from deterioration in their health. Closure of coal mines, the first victims of the economic restructuring after WWII, resulted in a huge number of lay-off workers. Okinawa was still under the occupation of US and the US bases in Okinawa and in Japan were used to attack North Vietnam and Vietcong. In the Near East Palestinians were oppressed and driven away from their homeland by Jews who themselves had been victims of holocaust, and the government of Japan did not support the political position of victims. In all those issues the establishment of Japan seemed to go against the naive feeling of young people about justice. At the end of the 1960s a growing number of students started to protest against the elderly authority.
Morita Doji was still a high school student when she was involved in student movement. From the texts of her songs, I presume that she was enjoying friendship, solidarity and comradeship among students. However, soon thereafter she experienced the collapse of movement, and the death of a friend prompted her to start writing and singing songs.
She started public concerts in 1975 when the student movement had been totally crushed by the authority and young people experienced a strong feeling of frustration. It was not only the failure of a political movement but the failure of their protests against the authority. Exactly in that moment Doji started to sing about her lost youth days and this sentiment was shared enthusiastically by a large number of young people at the time. Her songs soothed pain in young hearts. Many of her songs relate to the scenes of student movement, though not to concrete political agenda.
I was then not much cognizant of the details of political discussions among different sects of the movements, but the crucial thing for us all was whether we could be excused if we continued to sit by and watch the injustice without doing anything though we knew that injustice was practiced everywhere in the world. Many students were morally obliged to participate in the movements, went along for a while, but made a compromise to live an ordinary life and dropped out of the protest movements. However, the feeling of regret has not been totally wiped away from their heart and continues to torment them subliminally even now.
She broke up her carrier as musician in 1983, only 8 years after she had started. I presume, she could not continue to sing her songs, when the country became more and more overwhelmed by the material richness and affluence of the economic bubble.
Thereafter, her music was used for a popular TV drama series in 1993 and it acquired young fans. The drama was remade in 2003 again and Doji recorded one of her songs anew with a slightly modified text in 2003 when a CD album of her songs was released. However, she did not come back to the stage. It was a matter of course, I believe. She never appears in the public since she retired in 1983.
I hated the way of thinking of those "new left" students, as I thought we should look the political issues more seriously and realistically and from the viewpoint of political viability. However, I share the feeling Doji had about the failure of their movements and the sadness she experienced when her friends dropped out by way of sudden death, return to the ordinary civic life and so on. After all we shared the same atmosphere of the age. She saw the end of a period and she foresaw the end of her musical activities. But her message still moves me a lot, as I still have a scar in my heart like many others who are fond of Doji’s songs.
Morita Doji died in April 2018. Except for close friends ordinary fans have no idea about her private life. They saw her only with big sunglasses hiding her real face. They even do not know her real name. But, she left us 64 precious songs.